Statistics. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re big fans of them at bwinbetting HQ. In fact, our relationship with them is probably bordering on the obsessive.
We spend hours delving through them in order to arm our readers with all the information they need when contemplating where their hard-earned money should be going on a particular match.
Sometimes, they provide no help whatsoever – after all, 88.6% of them are made up anyway, right? – but more often than not, we’ve found that doing our homework can unveil some real betting gems.
Well, let me tell you, when I first started researching Tuesday’s Capital One Cup clash between Reading and Arsenal, there was one statistic which took absolutely no effort to find but may have you questioning everything you thought you knew about football if you haven’t noticed it yet.
Brace yourself. Take a deep breath. Ready?
Arsenal have the best defensive record in the Premier League.
Yes, that’s right. Arsenal. You know, that woeful bunch of French surrender monkeys who can’t defend for toffee and are definitely going to miss out on the top four this year (just like the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that)?
I know. I can’t believe it either.
Of course, this revelation after nine games of the new campaign is far less interesting than another ‘Arsenal in crisis’ or ‘Arsene Wenger’s lost it’ story, which is probably why the mainstream media have largely ignored it. (How many years is it since the Gunners won a trophy now, by the way?)
But don’t worry, Arsene, I am fully committed to banging the drum for you on this one.
Just six goals conceded from a fixture list which has included trips to Liverpool, Manchester City and West Ham is a record worth shouting from the rooftops.
It’s just that I’m going to shout it long and loud from the rooftops right now because it will probably look far worse after Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford.
And while that may sound contrary, allow me to clarify. I’m not fooled into thinking that Arsenal are suddenly some kind of George Graham vintage reincarnate. But equally, I don’t think their defence is anywhere near as bad as it is regularly made out to be (especially as it’s been missing the superb Bacary Sagna and carrying the woeful Vito Mannone for much of the season).
The point is that perception and reality are not always the same thing in football and the truth about Arsenal’s defensive capabilities is probably somewhere in between.
Royals boss Brian McDermott certainly appears to understand this concept better than most, ignoring the world’s most famous trophy drought in his pre-match press conference and praising Wenger’s ‘phenomenal achievement’ in reaching the Champions League group stages 15 years in a row.
McDermott, who spent seven years with the Gunners as a player, used the word ‘class’ to sum up the way Arsenal as a club conducts itself – a word which has seemingly been tossed on to the scrap heap in recent weeks and months, judging by the behaviour of some of the Premier League’s leading players, managers and now, allegedly, officials.
The way McDermott has transformed Reading from shock Championship strugglers to Championship winners to top-flight battlers in the space of 12 months has been achieved with plenty of class, even if the Berkshire outfit remain winless so far since returning to the big time.
However, it is largely due to Arsenal’s improved defensive strength – and Reading’s comparative lack of defensive strength – that I am siding with the Gunners in this fourth-round clash (yes, there was a point to talking up their new-found resilience).
There is a school of betting thought that says while backing Arsenal’s first team to win away at odds-on right now is barmy, backing their reserve team to win away at odds-on right now is worthy of being taken away by the men in white coats.
In fairness, the visitors certainly look pretty short at 4/5, with the draw at 27/10 and Reading out at 29/10 , but the reality is that Wenger’s blend of youth and experience should prove superior to McDermott’s willing but limited supporting cast.
A Gunners rearguard featuring the experience of Johan Djourou, last season’s star defensive man Laurent Koscielny and possibly Carl Jenkinson (who has been superb in recent weeks and was unlucky to lose his place to the fit-again Sagna on Saturday) should be strong enough to deal with anything Reading have to offer, especially if they are shielded by Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin.
Similarly, Arsenal should have the edge on their latest opponents in the attacking department, as the likes of Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin have plenty to prove to Wenger, while exciting 17-year-old Serge Gnabry could also be set loose on the Royals from the start.
Reading are yet to keep a clean sheet in any game this season and the history books don’t offer any real encouragement either – Arsenal have won the last nine meetings between the sides.
But instead of that odds-on quote about the Gunners, the 8/5 that they win a game of over 2.5 goals looks to offer the value play here.
New customers registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Arsenal to win in a match featuring three or more goals would return £52 if successful.
After all, three of Reading’s four home Premier League games so far have contained three or more goals and their two Capital One Cup matches to date have each yielded five goals (a 3-2 home win over Peterborough and a victory at QPR by the same scoreline), while Arsenal’s lone outing in this competition produced seven in a 6-1 win over Coventry.
And regardless of where you stand on the Arsenal defence debate, those are the sort of statistics which could have you jumping as high as Per Mertesacker on stilts come the full-time whistle at the Madjeski.